The Department of Health today confirmed two more human cases of West Nile virus.  There have been four cases of the virus diagnosed this year, three with the most severe form of the disease.

The new cases were from Iberville and Livingston parishes, and both are the neuro-invasive form of the disease. Health officials believe both cases of the virus were contracted in early July, with symptoms developing later.

Last week, LDH announced two human cases of West Nile virus from Livingston Parish, which were the first human cases of West Nile virus for the 2005 season. One woman developed neuro-invasive disease from West Nile and another woman who developed the milder form of the virus, with no serious illness. Both women are recovering at home.

Prior to the onset of human West Nile cases, the virus had been detected in 105 dead birds and in hundreds of mosquito pools throughout Louisiana.

“Residents must understand that, especially at this time of year, people in all parishes of Louisiana are at risk for West Nile virus whether there is a human case or positive bird from their parishes or not,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. “To avoid the disease, we must all take precautions against mosquito bites.”

West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites, begins with flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or death.

In previous years, the first cases of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illness began appearing in late June or early July. Last year, there were 114 cases of West Nile and seven deaths and in 2003 there were 122 cases and seven deaths from the disease. The highest year for West Nile cases in Louisiana was 2002, when the state experienced 329 cases and 25 deaths.

To avoid West Nile virus, apply mosquito repellant, wear long sleeves and long pants and avoid wearing perfumes or colognes when outside for prolonged periods of time. Also, remove any standing water from around your home and make sure your windows and doors have secure screens.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the LDH Web site,